January 2, 2013

Will Post Houses and DITs Be Extinct by 2017?

The media management and quality control handled by the digital imaging technician and post house is nearly universally vital in modern filmmaking, where each digital camera brings its own varying formats, workflows, and quirks. This need for DITs and post houses, however, may evaporate just as quickly as it has arisen -- at least according to the predictions of Michael Cioni. As the CEO of post house Light Iron, he has helped pioneer RED workflows at the highest level of filmmaking, so his word is not to be taken lightly -- particularly since he's predicting the end of what his and any other post house does as we know it by 2017. Furthermore, what cameras (and therefore camera teams) will have to take care of themselves is staggering, especially taking a look at the duties fulfilled by today's high-end DIT carts -- including those assembled by Light Iron itself.

"The DIT Dilemma"

On his blog FORESIGHT, Michael Cioni has written up a fascinating editorial in which he discusses a number of points in the overlapping worlds of the post house and the on-set technician, which largely appeared previously in a thread on REDUser. He highlights the lack of agreement or understanding regarding a DIT's duties, as well as the marginalized recognition of the DIT's importance many productions seem to propagate. Perhaps most importantly, he explains his own expectation that the role of the DIT will be redundant by 2020:

The data that I’ve collected and successfully applied into my business suggests that the post house is less desirable than ever before and in terms of dailies provisions, will not exist by 2017. Mark my words. Likewise, the sophistication of cameras continues to increase and for the DITs who have been in the game for 10 years, you know that many of the tools you used to require to “normalize” images on your cart have been absorbed into the camera itself. In fact, I predict that by 2021, all the capture, transcodes (there won’t be transcodes, but the equivalent of the transcode), sync, color, windowburn, watermarking, versioning, color space conversions and even lined-script notes based on totalcode-timecode during capture will *ALL* be recorded and managed by the camera, saved to an online cloud server and instantly distributed worldwide. In other words, a significant portion of what Light Iron does today to make its money will not exists in 10 years (which is the same for thousands of people around the globe). Again, mark my words.

These predictions are based on following the data that has been compiling for 10 years, analyzing Moore’s Law, talking with targets of manufacturing, evaluating the market evolution and making a few educated guesses. The result: in 2021, we will not have DITs or dailies post houses. - -Sure, I’m scared, too, but I know enough of my own abilities to predict the market that I intend to evolve along with it - as opposed to devolve in spite of it (as some foolishly attempt do). If you are a DIT today, I can assure you that you won’t be a DIT in 2021. -- Maybe that’s a relief:-) But it means that one needs to find ways to A) build a career that leads to professional satisfaction in the future and B) find ways to extend your relevance today as far in the future as appropriate.

Michael's post is extensive, and in context these statements possess even greater gravity, so I recommend reading the full text, "The DIT Dilemma."

What A DIT Cart Can Do -- And What Cameras of the Future Must Do to Replace Them

Moving ahead with Mr. Cioni's prediction, the weight of it becomes even better illustrated when one stops to consider the types of things a DIT does on set, with the help of specialized equipment carts -- all of which the camera team and the camera itself must complete in the future envisioned in Michael's post.

For the sake of full context, here are Light Iron's promos for its top-of-the-line DIT packages, OUTPOST and LILY PAD.

There are many DIT cart solutions available -- and to a certain extent, you may be customizing your setup from show to show as needed if you're filling the role yourself. In fact, reading up on the topic, we're looking to feature the specifics and innards of a standard DIT cart for those who are interested in the near future. Here, I include soley Light Iron configurations because this gear comes from an industry leader in production and post processing and workflow -- as such, and given how seriously Light Iron takes these matters, Michael's predictions take on all the more importance.

What about you guys -- are you able to envision a near future in which the functions of DITs, their carts, and the post house are all included in-camera?

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30 Comments

Plus by that time huge advances in 2d/3d capture/projection robotic cameras...

January 2, 2013

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Brando

I can't wait for DITs to disappear, along with 'stereographers'. We have bad nicknames for them in our building.
However, with more and more of the pipeline moving to set, I think he's optimistic re the date.
They may not be called DITs by then, but on every large shoot the number of post people there is increasing not decreasing.

And he knows Moore's Law is a C20 thing yes? :-)

January 2, 2013

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marklondon

I have friends who are DITs,but despite that, I believe DITs are an unnecessary expense in production. Granted, I understand that having them around can lessen the load from the DP or camera ops, but I really think there's little use for them, especially if it's just data wrangling.

It should be interesting to see how the position evolves but also how technology evolves from now til 2017.

January 2, 2013

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DIYFilmSchool.net

I think No Film School's trend of "question stories" like this piece is not a great one. A number of people thought the trend in mainstream journalism to "what if?" stories e.g. "what if aliens attacks Earth" "what if video games really do cause violence" ends up lowering the standards of what is be covered and deviating into endless speculation and often heated discussions about things that have not happened, are not currently happening and no real evidence.

Look at your own top stories of 2012 - that's what your audience wants. Reviews, breaking news, comparison footage, useful data. Speculation - that's fine for forums and the occasionally editorial, but as it's already getting old. As for this article, narrative filmmaking, especially features, demands really sharp people in specialized positions. It's been true for over 100 years, so unless you have hard evidence the work of narrative filmmaking has fundamentally changed (news, it's not). A "DIT" is really just a modern AC - type. Digital cameras needs are different than film camera, but somebody is always going to have to work with the camera and the images it captures. And on a demanding narrative or commercial shoot, you avoid having people wear too many hats and are often pushing technology beyond standard design limits.

And post houses going away - really? You can't be serious. 5 minutes of research on IMDB would show at exponential increase in post crew for film productions.

I understand the desire to provoke discussion and interaction - but don't let No Film School become dump for idle speculation.

January 2, 2013

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I'd rather get the kitchen sink and choose what I read rather than No Film School narrowing down the content. I know very little about post houses and DIT's. Now I am doing further research on these two facets of film making.....as a beginner Im increasing my knowledge of the field.

January 2, 2013

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scooter

What has been true for 100 years is only based on the fact that film based workflow is mechanical and hard to automate, so required more people.

Data based workflows are driven by automation. Using off the shelf or custom software, it's possible for fewer people run many tasks. There are numerous examples of productions that have set up their own in-house teams for certain aspects of post. It'll only increase when the workflow is pure data.

If software like Adobe Anywhere works as promised, then post doesn't have to all be done in one fixed spot, so it'll be possible to have more remote collaboration.

There's a cycle of post houses disappearing and newer ones popping up. There is also more international competition. This doesn't mean that all these companies will last either. The cost of starting up is lower, but sustaining the business might not be.

DITs were video engineers in the beginning because the cameras required it. The cameras as much more user friendly now, but it doesn't mean DITs are or should be just data wranglers.

January 2, 2013

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Thomas

I agree entirely with the writer of the comment regarding the futility of "what if" articles. Speculative journalism is a lot of fluff and padding with no real constructive worth. Analysis of current trends and practices is a lot more instructive. Having worked in the Post industry for over 20 years, including 16 years as Telecine operator/Grader at the Australian Film Television and Radio School 1090-2004, I also wrote for a number of Industry Journals and saw tremendous changes right on the wavefront of the Digital Revolution. My own research efforts in that time were based on attending SMPTE and other industry events and reading leading publications.

The last 7 years of course have heralded the total digital cine workflow right up to IMAX format, a lot quicker than most pundits predicted. Currency is relevancy, leave predictions to the mystics IMHO.

January 3, 2013

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Sergei

not the end of post facilities at all, just the end of places doing dalies... which once you leave NY / LA they don't exist anyway. data wrangling will still exist at some level to copy and dump camera media. Even though SSD's will get cheaper and bigger, camera's will use the space even faster with 4K to 8K transition and probably dual records of RAW and a compressed codec like ProRes or h264/5 @ 422 intraframe.

January 2, 2013

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Steve Oakley above is correct. The dailies business has simply morphed into on-set dailies with the D.I.T. and others. Post encompasses final color-correction, visual effects, and sound mixing, and those processes have been getting more complicated and more time-consuming over the years, not less so. But dailies are going, going, gone. We already saw that happen years ago, confirmed by the closing of Technicolor's labs, the ramping-down of film processing, and many production companies building their own "mini post" facilities to handle dailies and ingest. And many LA and NY post houses have suffered layoffs, work slowdowns, and diminished rates, caused by the pie getting sliced more finely than ever before.

But as long as studios require large screen images, complex visual effects, and huge sound mixes, those will have to be done by post houses. The key question for me is whether North America can hold on to this work. The very real possibility is that small producers will attempt to do all of this stuff on their own (with widely-varying results), and the big producers and studios will farm out most or all of this work to 3rd-world countries via massive data pipes. And these are sobering problems.

January 7, 2013

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Marc Wielage

Sure, in the future we may not need DIT's but they'll still be hired on every big shoot. And for a very simple and very good reason. When you're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on your production, you NEED to make sure your footage is safe. Doesn't matter if things are automated, doesn't matter if the DIT guy doesn't even do anything. He needs to be there to make sure everything is working and to take over if the system fails.
Even if cameras can upload to cloud servers automatically, any producer worth his salt would want a hard copy. Probably two. Stored in different buildings.

January 2, 2013

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Alex

Until there is a total fail-safe option to back up and manage data, us DPs will always love having a second set of eyes managing the days work. I look at my camera crew as an extension of my own brain. It's nice to focus on the script with the director and keep my head in the creative sphere. Light field technology will most likely free up a portion of the 1st AC's responsibilities in the near future, not to mention the fact that 2nd AC's responsibilities have changed over the past few years tremendously. This trade can sometimes seem amorphous these days with ever changing and exponential growth in digital advances, however the human eye still out-performs the computer on error checking, creative consistency, and arbitrary daily decisions. In a perfect world, data management will always follow the post supervisors guidelines and fit into a specific workflow, but since when has anything ever gone flawlessly on a film set? One thing that has made our line of work more affordable is competition, however this competition has been the root cause of an inconsistent workflow. There are multiple NLEs with multiple codecs of varying bit rates etc etc etc. Until there is one standardized system, or until computers are powerful enough to encode all possible workflow options instantly, how can we expect DPs and or the camera department to take up the extra responsibility of data management? We already have enough on our plate as it is.

Setting all of these points aside, it's actually nice to have a trained second pair of eyes having a look over the footage on set looking for errors, inconsistencies, and glitches.

Every position in the camera department is a great position to be in to learn from the DP. The DIT has the opportunity to critically analyze the DP's work from a technical aspect. I LOVE working with the DIT. They ask me questions that get me thinking about the bits and Bytes. After all, we are in the digital sphere now! What a fascinating and modern world we live in!

Having learned from Kasparov, I am unwilling to state that computers will never replace certain taks. I just think that people are quick to assume that digital technology can replace the importance of human judgement under the constant flux of a film set and competing technologies.

January 2, 2013

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Well said. That's the point I forgot to mention. The improvement of technology should never add responsibility to the DP, if anything it should free up time to focus on the STORY and not the tools. When people are overworked or get rushed they are 100 times more likely to make a mistake and in our business, particularly in the camera department, a mistake can cost someone a million dollars.

January 2, 2013

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Alex

I don't think there will be ever one standardized system, but that shouldn't matter if everything is correctly automated.

NLEs are becoming better at handling more native file formats, so maybe no need to transcode. This becomes important when there will be much more material to sift through, so having to transcode everything will just make it harder.

Creating dailies is becoming just about instantaneous. Lots of systems out there showing that's possible.

If a workflow is figured out from the beginning, then any repeatable task can easily be automated and supervised.

I think there needs to be better handshake between production and editorial. The faster data gets from set to editorial, there can be more checks and balances.

January 2, 2013

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Thomas

I took REDucation back in December out in LA, and Michael Cioni came in for a couple hours to talk and demonstrate everything Light Iron has been developing. It was extremely informative, and I have no doubt this is the way to go. Being able to collaborate without necessarily needing to gather every single person for dailies etc. seems key. It's freeing up who you work with, when, and where. I love the fact that you can restrict file-sharing to proximity and specific iPads as well.

January 2, 2013

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I have to disagree with this article entirely. Data management is still going to be very necessary pretty much forever. Cloud services have proven to be unreliable as a means for storing massive amounts of data. One of the issues is bandwidth. How do you get that 25TB Red Dragon II file into the cloud, and back out of the cloud? Sure, things can be automated and scripted, but the amount of data needed to be managed is only going to go up in the next ten years. Larger production houses/studios will always have some form of DIT, or data manager.

I think the real issue right now is how to store all of this data long term? TB hard drives are relatively cheap right now, and generally far exceed average consumer uses. But with professional video a 1TB hard drive can be blown through with just one hour of RAW footage. Then that footage has to be backed up thrice for sufficient protection. Another problem is that although SSD drives are coming down in price dramatically, it is going to be a while before we see 5TB SSD drives, or even >3TB hard drives. Ironically, the best way to archive a movie is still with film. Hence film archiving is one of the few things that Kodak is keeping post bankruptcy.

January 2, 2013

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Neil

It all depends on your experience with current cloud services. Companies like Aspera pushes lots of data around for post facilities, up to 10Gbps, fast and secure. In 5 years, it'll be significantly different.

Well you'll always have and need data management. That's not going away, it's how and who manages it that evolves. DIT should evolve into a onset/post position, part of a much more significant workflow group responsible for all data needs for a production.

Studios using or creating their own data centers will likely be the norm for security reasons. All the media accessed from those data centers, through secure encrypted connections and the data centers take care of archives, data migration, etc. That's what Sony's Media Backbone does.

We already have 4TB hard drives, so seeing 6TB, and 8TB drives won't be too long, probably early 2014. But there are other solutions for archive like LTO, which may not be as cheap, is widely used.

January 3, 2013

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Thomas

DIT titles disappearing by 2017, maybe, but a post house... no way. If you want to talk about something other than a little tech cart that's really going to be disruptive to a post house business, then let's talk about Adobe Anywhere.

January 2, 2013

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Razor

Nice infomercial for Light Iron.

January 2, 2013

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Lenry

True that!

January 3, 2013

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Full discression, I work as a DIT, and I would say the majority of this informercial for light iron is accurate. However as some people have mentioned and was hinted at in the article there are a few things that probably need to be cleared up.

1) Many of the better DIT's working in the industry today, have made a transition over from engineering some even move up from the digital utility world. The thing that gives DIT's a bad name on the camera side of things are the guys who don't know how to work with the camera crew. Often these are the guys that come out of post houses, or even roll into the position early because they see the appeal of a large pay check, I've seen and met many of these guys and heard the horror stories.

2) The job of the DIT is a nebulous one. I absolutely agree that we won't be doing the same jobs in 2017 as we are now, I'm not doing the same things in 2013 as I was 2009 but the moniker has stayed the same. Having watched this video I would say they believe that the DIT is someone who should be off-set doing color, and dailies. This is in my opinion a very "commercial" based workflow. But honestly that's just one of the types of DIT jobs being done. There are jobs when productions hire a DIT and all the need is a loader (someone to do multiple back ups of the footage and provide checksums but no LUT is applied. The Majority of the work I do, involves creating a LUT backing up Footage and checking exposure. This is all done on set, with the DP sitting next to me and through the creating of live looks that are then fed out to the Director and Video village.

3) The advantage for a DP having a DIT on set is there is a second set of eyes watching focus and exposure (with a waveform) and if you happen to be on a show that won't allow the DP to sit in on a color session because the show is airing to soon, you can create an approximate look for what the DP and Director were going for on set, in a non destructive way in case the show runner/producer/important-person-at-the-top decides that a look should eb completely different then what was originally decided. Additionally you cna have someone who is always in direct communication with the camera dept, so the DP can communicate with the gaffer/key grip/ director without adding another dept to that list.

The advantage of a DIT for a camera Crew is that there is someone who can help out the 1 AC's with exposure (if we have a long shot and I can create the same look with the iris at a 4-5.6 instead of a 2-2.8 I will push the image more so that the AC's have a fighting chance) Additionally I'm watching there work on a 24" reference monitor and can walk them into focus on anything that might be slightly out. Seconds get someone who can confirm the roll and take number (I'm typically less then 10 feet from the script supervisor) and often I can give them a heads up on lens change or camera configuration chanage before the DP/director has made it out of the tent.

4) These carts, while pretty and robust would not work for me out in the field, and maybe that's just the shows I work on, but you try pushing a monitor and two mac towers with a raid array through the sand or mud or swamp and tell me how "mobile" your cart is. This entire workflow seems to be designed with the idea of elimnating both the production house and the DIT with some hybrind that does the same job with more people at about 80% of the effectiveness. (and I'm guessing more then 80% of the cost.

5) To me data management is the most important job on set now whether that job is done by a DIT or a loader or a post house on wheels or an honest to goodness post house, I do not see that position going away anytime in the near future (or even the distant future) The departure from Film to Digital has enabled Directors to adopt the "keep rolling" mentality so that now most of the productions I work on are shooting in the 25-50:1 ratio the more that people can continue to safely back up that data, the more data will come in.

6) It's my opinion to that the DIT should know the camera better then anyone else on set, including the 1st but I'm open to that debate, and as these cameras become less field serviceable I think that need for knowledge will go away, you'll just bring out the back up camera body and keep shooting if one goes down.

I believe the DIT job could well disappear in the next 5 years, but I think it will be replaced by something that will adopt the skill sets of most DIT's today. The post house will most likely not disappear but I could see an end of the line for dailies houses if they don't adapt (as steve said- though as a note I'm out of atlanta where there are 7 dailies houses that I know of and work in wilmington where there are at least 2. So I think they maybe a little more common then just being in LA/NYC).

January 3, 2013

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Nick

Why single out DITs who started out in post houses as having a bad rap? Most of the tasks DITs do started in the post side. I can understand if there are individuals who can't handle the on chaos of a set, otherwise it's a bad generalization.

January 3, 2013

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Thomas

Fair enough, it's my own personal experience. I'm sure there are some good guys that have come from post houses, but the "bad DIT's" that have moved from post to on set don't seem to handle it well. That was the only generalization I intended to make.

Also while there is definitely a "post"mark on the DIT job. When I first started as a DIT it was on the f900 in 2004 I was responsible for the proper set up and white balance of the camera, when a board got knocked loose I replaced it, and I was responsible for signal flow. Later I became responsible for exposure, it wasn't until I was charged with physically matching individual cameras and applying a specific look that I even approached the work that was done on the "Post side"

Of course now that's all different, most of my work is copying, creating luts and monitoring exposure, the first two coming out of a "post" world. Which again shows you how much the job can shift in such a short amount of time. The issue that I have is when people see the DIT as a "downloader" which some folks come in as and then as a result make the rest of us look bad because they don't understand any other aspects of the job.

January 3, 2013

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Nick

I don't believe that DIT's won't be necessary anymore since I haven't seen a system that doesn't need maintenance. As image capturing systems evolve and perform an increasing amount of tasks, there will also be an increasing amount of errors, problems, etc. Don't be naive and think the future will be somehow different in this respect. Look at all the bugs that the digital era brought too. And all those people who had to spend hours on end in front of internet boards. This is something one shouldn't understimate. Often testing and refactoring isn't done properly due to time and money restrictions. I've experienced it myself often enough and I don't see anything changing here. Making a system stable is one thing - but you can't automise everything.

January 3, 2013

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Stephen McColm

That 1take infomercial was so cool!!

January 3, 2013

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Quobetah

When I started, waay back in the 1970s there were three kinds pf workflows.
1. Shoot on video and finish on video.
2. Shoot on film and finish on video.
3. Shoot on film and finish on film.

1 & 2 required post houses and 3 required optical houses (a post house for film).

Until they figure out a way to add titles and CGI (in real time) as the production is shot, post houses ain't going anywhere.

January 3, 2013

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c.d.embrey

You obviously shoot EX3 jobs still...
Kind of jobs us DIT's work on are the kind of jobs where you need 3 Red Epics or Arri Alexa XT's. Where the DOP would like the LUT on the camera or the monitor in real time and the dailies to look the same.
Show me a camera op or DOP who can handle this workflow... ;)

October 19, 2013

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Wezley Joao Ferreira

Thanks for taking the time to share your opinion. I completely agree with you.

End Is Near...
When I began my DIT career 3+ years ago all the DIT's in where going on about how DIT's will only last another year. Look at us today with Red Dragon & Alexa XT. DIT's are here to stay for while still.

If you wanna truly understand the role of the DIT then all you have to do is have a look at the Photographic Digital Assistants who have been in the game for longer then our modern DIT's. They are still in full swing on larger/professional jobs. We can really learn from these guys and they should not be underestimated as they have been ands on with RAW files for 5+ years now.

Current Tech
I'm currently building a 24 Core Machine with all the bells and whistles for half the price of the Light Iron box on wheels. So I can keep up with any post house, I don't have to cover the cost of office space, employees etc etc
Nothing like giving the DOP & Director a synced copy of todays rushes with LUT on an iPad @ wrap.

Future Tech
And soon we will all be shooting 16bit IMAX resolution in the cameras as a standard.
Cameras will always be small and compact as they need to hand held and able to fit onto a drone etc.
Therefore this gives us the advantage as we will have to have the machine capable of Backing Up & Transcoding these large files onset to support the camera.

The Real Debate
The real debate is not where we will be around, we know we are a necessity and wether people like it or not we are necessary part of the production process. And a really inexpensive solution to the very expensive film lab process.

The real debate is wether there the Post House or the DIT does the Dailies?
And who charges how much for these services?

October 19, 2013

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Wezley Joao Ferreira

Change is the only constant. Embrace it instead of complaining about it and you'll be golden. I've been a Digital Tech on the stills side for 8+ years now and it has not stayed the same - the cameras and raw workflows have gotten much better and more reliable but more importantly, the shooters and the rest of the crew are completely familiar with the process now, meaning it isn't quite so much of a mystery any longer. The DT is focusing much more on the final image now, whereas they were more focused on the capture of the raw data and some intermediate files a couple years ago. But the demands are just as strenuous/demanding and when the data stops flowing... well, the DT is there to make sure the crew keeps working.

November 6, 2013

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I found NoFilmSchool quite informative but i do not agree with this claim from Light Iron's boss and the speculative approach here. There is an unhealthy development going on in the film vfx industry, editors suddenly become colorists, apps suggest that one person can do it all, look at Nuke and Smoke, more and more 3d tools, particles and what not. Fact is that you need still highly specialized operators aka digital artists to do fluid sims, or animators who need years of honing their skills. Movies are not made by software applications nor any semi-automated hardware bundles or whatsoever. So stating post facilities will be gone and everything is going to be cloud based and the camera will do it alone is quite bold and far from reality. Good example 2d to 3d conversions, Gravity was painfully crafted by hundreds of artists, show me how a machine will do that in the near future even driven by cleverly build AI driven algorithm. My opinion is that there will be many more specialists and their skills will be in high demand no matter how far technological advancements go now or in the near future. Just my 2 cents.

January 2, 2014

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I agree. I've been a DMT/DIT since 2008 and I'd just like to add that the only reason that DIT's are even a part of the Camera dept. has nothing to do with them being suited to that dept, but rather because IATSE happened to win the battle over the DGC. Had the DGC won, DIT/DMT's would be part of the post department...and IMHO, that's where they belong. The shows that I work on, I find I collaborate a lot more with the editor than with the AC's or DoPs.

July 27, 2014

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Cameron